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Rainforests worth three times more alive than dead

10/10/2011 12:31:51

Revenue potential is three times greater

October 2011: Conserving key rainforests in Indonesia could generate revenues three times greater than felling them for palm oil plantations.



HOPE: The value of their habitat may yet prove the
saving grace for Indonesia's remaining orangutans

In doing so, such actions can also deliver multiple Green Economy benefits from combating climate change, securing water supplies and improved livelihoods while throwing a life line to the world's remaining populations of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans.

The findings come in a new report, requested by the Republic of Indonesia, from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), under its Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

Under the UN climate convention, governments are negotiating a mechanism to provide payments for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation plus additional forest activities (REDD+), with the aim of halving deforestation by 2020.

It is estimated that currently close to 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions - equivalent to around six Gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 - are linked with land use change, mainly through forest loss. In 2004, this amounted to more greenhouse gas emissions than those of the global transport sector.

Just 6,600 orangutans surviving
The new report estimates that many of the coastal, peat-rich forests of Sumatra - where dense populations of the last 6,600 orangutans survive - may be worth up to a present value of £14,500 a hectare at current carbon prices. Cleared for the same land may generate revenues from palm oil plantations at less than £4,800 a hectare.

The carbon value of avoided deforestation even in ordinary forests ranges from £2,500 to £7,300 per ha - and is much higher than other land-use practices such as agroforestry, sustainable logging and coffee.

Between 2005 and 2010, Indonesia was within the highest five countries for percentage of primary forest loss globally. Between 1985 and 2007, nearly half of the forest on Sumatra disappeared. The two Indonesian provinces where Sumatran orangutans occur, Aceh and North Sumatra, have witnessed a total forest loss of nearly 25 per cent and nearly 45 per cent, respectively from 1985 to 2008/9.

Norway is supporting Indonesia in its efforts to reduce deforestation and illegal logging under a $1 billion agreement that includes a two-year suspension of new concessions that convert peatlands and primary forests. The new report, whose findings come in the run up to the UN climate convention meeting in Durban, South Africa, indicates significant opportunities for other international donors to extend REDD+ initiatives in Indonesia's Sumatra region as well as other tropically-forested countries.

Devastating 50 per cent decline in water discharges
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: ‘Prioritising investments in sustainable forestry including REDD+ projects can deliver multiple Green Economy benefits and not just in respect to climate, orangutan conservation and employment in natural resource management.

‘The report indicates that in Aceh and in North Sumatra there has been a reported 50 per cent decline in water discharges in as many as 80 per cent of rivers as a result of deforestation losses that have serious implications for agriculture and food security including rice production and human health,' he added.

Erik Solheim, Norwegian Minister of the Environment and International Development, said his government was now providing additional support to INTERPOL towards building an enhanced collaboration among United Nations agencies and others to combat illegal logging.

‘We recognise that in order to make REDD+ a success, tackling illegal logging and assisting governments such as Indonesia with the capacity to combat such crime, will be important,' he said.

‘This study underlines that investing and re-investing in forests and the services they provide can be far more profitable and with social and environmental outcomes than trading away our common future for short-term gains.'

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